Rebuilding on a Contemplative Foundation
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Today, we continue Archbishop Rowan Williams’ address to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2012.
[Contemplation] is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom—freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that come from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative prayer is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter. 
. . . [We] have to be very careful in our evangelization not simply to persuade people to apply to God and the life of the spirit all the longings for drama, excitement and self-congratulation that we so often indulge in our daily lives. . . . [Responding] in a life-giving way to what the Gospel requires of us means a transforming of our whole self, our feelings and thoughts and imaginings. To be converted to the faith does not mean simply acquiring a new set of beliefs, but becoming a new person, a person in communion with God and others through Jesus Christ. 
Contemplation is an intrinsic element in this transforming process. To learn to look to God without regard to my own instant satisfaction, to learn to scrutinize and to relativise the cravings and fantasies that arise in me—this is to allow God to be God, and thus to allow the prayer of Christ, God’s own relation to God, to come alive in me. Invoking the Holy Spirit is a matter of asking the third person of the Trinity to enter my spirit and bring the clarity I need to see where I am in slavery to cravings and fantasies and to give me patience and stillness as God’s light and love penetrate my inner life. Only as this begins to happen will I be delivered from treating the gifts of God as yet another set of things I may acquire to make me happy, or to dominate other people. And as this process unfolds, I become more free—to borrow a phrase of St. Augustine—to “love human beings in a human way,”  to love them not for what they may promise me, to love them not as if they were there to provide me with lasting safety and comfort, but as fragile fellow-creatures held in the love of God. I discover (as we noted earlier) how to see other persons and things for what they are in relation to God, not to me. And it is here that true justice as well as true love has its roots. 
Paradoxically, personal fulfillment means abandoning ourselves and putting others first. It means moving beyond wanting to be loved and moving into becoming lovers. It means growing past our need for things and discovering happiness in giving things away—even giving ourselves away, as Jesus did. 
Gateway to Silence:
Build on the positive; build on love.
 Rowan Williams, “The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Address
to the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” 8, emphasis mine, http://rowanwilliams.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2645/archbishops-address-to-the-synod-of-bishops-in-rome.
 Ibid., 9.
 Augustine, Confessions IV.7.
 Williams, 10.
 Richard Rohr, Why Be Catholic? Understanding Our Experience and Tradition (Franciscan Media: 1989), 16.